Lessons from TechStars’ David Cohen on Building a Startup Culture: 7 Takeaways from the Xconomy San Diego Dinner

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the greater good, and great stuff happens.” He contends that Boulder, which has a population of about 100,000, is now widely viewed as a hotbed for Internet startups, and ranks among the nation’s biggest entrepreneurial communities—at least on a per capita basis.

Another key factor in TechStars’ success, Cohen said, has been the strong turnout for “Demo Day” at the end of each three-month session. New York’s most recent Demo Day, for example, drew more than 500 investors, entrepreneurs, mentors, and journalists to the Cedar Lake Theatre, where TechStars showcased 12 startups. That kind of attendance reflects the star power of TechStars’ mentors, Cohen said, and as a result, “There is competition for those deals. That’s what really drives the value for those companies.”

Cohen then listed seven points that he views as essential ingredients to creating entrepreneurial communities:

Place matters. Citing “The Rise of the Creative Class” and other work of The Atlantic magazine’s Richard Florida, Cohen said, “If you can attract creative people to your community, or it’s a place where they want to be, you have a huge advantage. I think it’s really important, and I really believe it. I think Boulder is one of those places, and guess what? I think San Diego is one of those places.”

Entrepreneurs must lead. Entrepreneurial communities “can’t be led by non-profits,” Cohen said. “They can’t be led by universities. They can’t be led by venture capitalists.” He pointed to the way Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has moved to create an entrepreneurial community in Las Vegas, NV. “He’s building an entire complex for startups. He’s an entrepreneur who is leading with very visible things, and he’s very loud, and I think that’s going to really help a place like Las Vegas.” Cohen said. “Everybody else, who is not an entrepreneur, should think of themselves as supporting what the entrepreneurs are doing.”

Create a “rally point” for early stage activity. “In the case of TechStars,” Cohen said, “it’s come in and help us mentor these companies.” It doesn’t have to be like TechStars, he added, but it should be … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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